New Watch List Entries

ESRX - Express Scripts

FDX - FedEx Corp.

LMT - Lockheed Martin


Active Watch List Candidates

AET - Aetna Inc

ITB - U.S. Home Construction ETF

LVLT - Level 3 Communications

MAR - Marriott Intl.


Dropped Watch List Entries

ANTM and WMT both graduated to our active play list.



New Watch List Candidates:

Express Scripts - ESRX - close: 85.38

Company Info

If ESRX is good enough for Buffett is it good enough for you?

According to the company's marketing material, "Express Scripts (ESRX) manages more than a billion prescriptions each year for tens of millions of patients. On behalf of our clients – employers, health plans, unions and government health programs – we make the use of prescription drugs safer and more affordable. Express Scripts uniquely combines three capabilities – behavioral sciences, clinical specialization and actionable data – to create Health Decision Science(SM), our innovative approach to help individuals make the best drug choices, pharmacy choices and health choices. Better decisions mean healthier outcomes.

Headquartered in St. Louis, Express Scripts provides integrated pharmacy benefit management services, including network-pharmacy claims processing, home delivery, specialty benefit management, benefit-design consultation, drug-utilization review, formulary management, and medical and drug data analysis services. The company also distributes a full range of biopharmaceutical products and provides extensive cost-management and patient-care services."

In November 2014 there were a number of headlines about Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway initiating a 449,000 share stake in ESRX. The Oracle of Omaha has a significant following so this definitely drew additional investor attention to ESRX.

More recently ESRX was making headlines when it announced a deal with AbbVie. One of the big stories last year in the biotech space was the price of Gilead Sciences (GILD) price for its cure to hepatitis C. It was big headlines when a congressman questioned GILD's $84,000 price target for their hep C treatment. AbbVie (ABBV) was given FDA approval for their hepatitis C cure in December. They also priced their 12-week treatment around $84K. Everyone was surprised when ESRX announced they would exclusively use ABBV's treatment in their prescription plans in exchange for a significant price discount from ABBV. Shares of GILD naturally dropped on this news but it makes smart business sense for ESRX who is trying to reduce their expenses.

Technically shares of ESRX are bullish with a trend of higher lows. Right now the stock has been consolidating sideways the last few weeks but it looks poised to breakout higher. Tonight I am suggesting we wait for ESRX to close above $86.75 and then buy calls the next morning with a stop loss at $81.75.

FYI: ESRX is scheduled to report earnings on February 23rd.

Breakout trigger: Wait for ESRX to close above $86.75
Then buy calls the next morning with a stop at $81.75.

BUY the 2016 Jan $95 call (ESRX160115c95) current ask $4.30

Option Format: symbol-year-month-day-call-strike

Chart of ESRX:

Originally listed on the Watch List: 01/18/15


Fedex Corp. - FDX - close: 176.76

Company Info

FDX is part of the services sector. They're one of the largest air delivery and freight delivery service providers in the world. They have 62,000 vehicles and 370 service centers around the globe.

The stock was a strong performer last year with a +20% gain, outpacing the major market indices. Recently a few Wall Street analysts have turned increasingly bullish on FDX. The global economy might be slowing but the U.S. continues to see economic improvement. At the same time gasoline prices have crashed and this is a favorable environment for shipping companies where fuel is a major expensive.

It's a new year and both UPS and FDX have raised their prices by 5%. FDX has also started charging customers with their new dimensional pricing strategy. That means the size of the package in addition to the weight determines the price to ship it. This is specifically targeting online shippers who have shipping small light weight items in big bulky boxes. The industry is calling this new system dim weight pricing and it should boost revenues for FDX.

Shares of FDX found support near $170 multiple times this January. Friday's breakout past several moving averages looks bullish. The stock has also broken the six-week trend of lower highs. However, instead of chasing FDX here, after a $10 rally, I am suggesting we buy calls on a dip.

Tonight I'm suggesting a buy-the-dip trigger at $175.00 with a stop loss at $168.00.

Buy A Dip at $175.00 with a stop loss at $168.00

BUY the 2016 Jan $200 call (FDX160115c200) current ask $7.75

Option Format: symbol-year-month-day-call-strike

Chart of FDX:

Originally listed on the Watch List: 01/18/15


Lockheed Martin - LMT - close: 194.71

Company Info

Defense stocks have delivered exceptional gains for investors in spite of the dreaded sequestration budget cuts from Budget Control Act of 2011. Granted the cuts have been delayed and adjusted many times but it still put a crimp in U.S. government defense spending. In response many of America's biggest defense contractors have focused on building up their international business instead of relying on the U.S.

LMT is one such defense contractor. According to a company press release, " Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 113,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The Corporation's net sales for 2013 were $45.4 billion."

Right now one of their biggest projects is the massive F-35 Joint Strike Fighter system. It's the most expensive weapons system the U.S. has ever built with an estimated cost of over $1 trillion over its 50-year lifespan.

If you haven't noticed the world seems to be getting more dangerous. The U.S. is facing a growing military rivalry with China, a belligerent and dangerous Russia, and war in the Middle East with ISIS. This sort of environment will likely keep investors focused on defense stocks.

Looking at LMT's earnings results they have beaten Wall Street's estimates for the last four reports in a row. They raised their guidance in two of the last four earnings reports. The rally in the stock has created a buy signal on the point & figure chart with a $240 target. Currently shares are consolidating sideways and appear to be building up steam for a breakout past round-number resistance at $200. I suspect that LMT's earnings on January 27th might be the catalyst needed to push shares higher.

Tonight I am suggesting we wait for LMT to close above $201.00 and then buy calls the next morning with a stop loss at $189.00.

Breakout trigger: Wait for a close above $201.00
Then buy calls the next morning with a stop at $189.00

BUY the 2016 Jan $220 call (LMT160115c220) current ask $5.70

Option Format: symbol-year-month-day-call-strike

Chart of LMT:

Originally listed on the Watch List: 01/18/15


Active Watch List Candidates:



Aetna Inc. - AET - close: 92.56

Comments:
01/18/15: Healthcare stocks were showing relative strength last week. AET bounced off its 40-dma and rallied to new highs. The stock appears to be breaking out. We want to take advantage of this strength and adjust our entry strategy. Instead of waiting for a dip we will look for AET to close above $93.00 and buy calls the next morning. We will adjust the stop loss to $84.90 and move the option strike from the 2016 January $90 call to the $100 call.

More conservative investors may want to wait until after AET reports earnings on February 3rd and we see how the market reacts to the company's results.

Earlier Comments: December 7, 2014:
AET is in the healthcare sector. According to a recent press release, "Aetna is one of the nation's leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving an estimated 46 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna's customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, health care providers, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates."

If you study a one-year chart of AET the stock has definitely seen its ups and downs. That's because the healthcare industry has faced a number of issues. AET's CEO commented on this past year in their latest post-earnings conference call.

Mark T. Bertolini, Aetna chairman, CEO and president, said, "some of the challenges we face this year, including pricing solving for nearly $1 billion in ACA related industry fees and taxes, solving for the largest rate cuts to the Medicare Advantage program in our recent history, navigating a host of new regulatory requirements in our small group and individual businesses, managing through a turbulent launch in public exchanges and controlling pharmacy costs in a year where heavy priced Hepatitis C treatments first became available and treatment guidelines changed in unforeseen ways." (ACA stands for Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare).

In spite of all these challenges shares of AET are outperforming the major indices with a +32% gain in 2014 compared to a +12% gain in the S&P 500. AET's strength is due to the company's earnings performance. They have beaten Wall Street's earnings estimates and raised guidance three quarters in a row.

AET's most recent quarterly report was October 28th. Analysts were expecting a profit of $1.58 a share on revenues of $14.7 billion. AET delivered a profit of $1.79 a share. Revenues were up +13% to match estimates. The company said they added 470,000 new medical insurance customers in the third quarter, putting the total at 23.6 million.

Bertolini commented on their results, "Aetna reported solid third-quarter results, including our 10th consecutive quarter of membership growth, record quarterly operating revenues, and continued high single-digit pretax operating margin."

The major healthcare companies are reaping the benefits of Obamacare as more people sign up. Management raised their full year 2014 earnings guidance into the $6.60-6.70 zone versus Wall Street's estimate of $6.57.

Just last month AET raised their quarterly dividend 11% to 25 cents a share and added $1 billion to its stock buyback program, up from $464 million. In the last two months the stock has received multiple price target upgrades into the $95-100 zone. The point & figure chart is bullish with a $112.00 target.

The breakout past resistance near $85.00 looks like a significant buy signal. Yet after four weeks of gains I don't want to chase AET here. Tonight I am suggesting a buy-the-dip entry point at $86.00. Eventually AET will see a pullback and we want to be ready. It may not happen soon so we just need to be patient.

01/18/15 Strategy Update: Instead of waiting for a dip we will look for AET to close above $93.00 and buy calls the next morning. We will adjust the stop loss to $84.90 and move the option strike from the 2016 January $90 call to the $100 call.

Wait for a close above $93.00
Then buy calls the next day with a stop at $84.90.

BUY the 2016 Jan. $100 call (AET160115c100) current ask $6.10

01/18/15 Move the trigger to a close above $93.00 with a stop at $84.90 and use the 2016 January $100 call.
12/28/14 adjust the buy-the-dip trigger to $86.00 and raise the stop loss to $83.45
12/14/14 adjust the buy-the-dip trigger from $86.00 to $84.25. Option Format: symbol-year-month-day-call-strike

Originally listed on the Watch List: 12/07/14


iShares US Home Construction ETF - ITB - close: 25.10

Comments:
01/18/15: It was an exceptionally volatile week for the ITB. Shares spiked above $27.00 on Tuesday only to reverse sharply lower. The selling continued until shares tested support near $24.00 and its 200-dma on Friday morning.

The weakness was exacerbated by news from KB Home (KBH) who warned they might miss their margin targets for 2015.

I am not changing our entry strategy on the ITB yet. We are still waiting for a close above $27.00. If this ETF doesn't recover quickly we'll remove it.

Earlier Comments: January 11, 2015:
The ITB is an exchange traded fund that mimics the Dow Jones U.S. Select Home Construction Index. The top 12 holdings are DHI, LEN, PHM, TOL, NVR, HD, TPH, LOW, RYL, SHW, KBH and MTH.

This index has been stuck in a trading range for years. That looks like it's about to change. Have you looked at a chart of the 10-year bond yield lately? Bond yields are going lower. That's going to pressure mortgage rates lower and that's bullish for home sales. This past week saw 30-year mortgage rates dip below 3.6%. That's a 19-month low.

If that wasn't enough of a tailwind President Obama wants to help. On January 7th the White House announced plans to reduce the government mortgage insurance premiums in an effort to boost home ownership. Another positive for the homebuilders is the U.S. Federal Reserve. We just had two fed governors come out last week saying they think the Fed should hold off on raising rates. The longer the Fed waits to start raising rates the better it will be for homebuilders.

Currently the ITB appears to be breaking out past major resistance and closed at multi-year highs. I'd like to see a little bit more follow through. Tonight I'm suggesting we wait for the ITB to close above $27.00 and then buy calls the next morning with a stop loss at $23.95.

Breakout trigger: Wait for the ITB to close above $27.00 and then buy calls the next morning with a stop at $23.95.

BUY the 2016 Jan $30 call (ITB160115c30)

Option Format: symbol-year-month-day-call-strike

Originally listed on the Watch List: 01/11/15


Level 3 Communications - LVLT - close: 47.80

Comments:
01/18/15: LVLT spent last week quietly consolidating sideways. If you look carefully the recent action in LVLT is starting to look like a bear-flag consolidation pattern. Fortunately we are still on the sidelines and want to see the stock close above $50.50 before launching positions.

Earlier Comments: December 28, 2014:
LVLT is a communication services company. Their marketing material describes LVLT as "Level 3 Communications, Inc. is a Fortune 500 company that provides local, national and global communications services to enterprise, government and carrier customers. Level 3's comprehensive portfolio of secure, managed solutions includes fiber and infrastructure solutions; IP-based voice and data communications; wide-area Ethernet services; video and content distribution; data center and cloud-based solutions. Level 3 serves customers in more than 500 markets in over 60 countries over a global services platform anchored by owned fiber networks on three continents and connected by extensive undersea facilities."

They just recently completed a merger with TW Telecom. Earnings have been improving. LVLT has beaten Wall Street's earnings estimates the last three quarters in a row. Technically shares have been outperforming the broader market. The NASDAQ composite is up +15% in 2014 while LVLT is up +50%. The point & figure chart is bullish and forecasting a long-term target at $75.00.

Currently shares of LVLT are hovering just below key resistance at the $50.00 mark. I am suggesting we wait for LVLT to close above $50.50 and then buy calls the next morning with a stop loss at $45.45.

Breakout trigger: Wait for a close above $50.50,
Then buy calls the next day with a stop at $45.45

BUY the 2016 Jan $55 call (LVLT160115c55)

Option Format: symbol-year-month-day-call-strike

Originally listed on the Watch List: 12/28/14


Marriott Intl. - MAR - close: 75.89

Comments:
01/18/15: Tuesday's attempt at a bullish breakout quickly failed. If we see shares of MAR close below support at $74.00 we'll probably remove it as a candidate. Currently the plan is to buy calls after MAR closes above $80.25.

Earlier Comments: January 4, 2015:
MAR is in the services sector. The company describes itself as "Marriott International, Inc. (MAR) is a global leading lodging company based in Bethesda, Maryland, USA, with more than 4,100 properties in 79 countries and territories. Marriott International reported revenues of nearly $13 billion in fiscal year 2013. The company operates and franchises hotels and licenses vacation ownership resorts under 18 brands."

Earnings in 2014 have been improving and MAR beat Wall Street's estimates the last three quarters in a row. Their most recent report was late October with MAR delivering earnings of $0.65 per share. Revenues were up +9.5% to $3.46 billion, also above estimates. Guidance has only been in-line but that could be management playing it safe. Back in September the company outlined their growth plans through 2017. MAR said they will add more than 200,000 rooms around the world. Revenue per room available (RevPAR) is a key metric for the lodging industry. MAR expects 4 percent to 6 percent RevPAR growth in 2015 through 2017.

MAR is an international company and the CEO was recently asked about the economic slowdown in China, Japan and Europe and if it was hurting business. He said no. MAR's CEO said global travel in 2014 was better than the prior three years and he expects it to be healthy in 2015.

MAR focuses on three types of travel. They have the individual business traveler. There is group travel. Then leisure travel. MAR said they are seeing growth in all three areas. The improving U.S. economy could drive business travel and group travel. Lower gas prices mean more money for consumers so that can boost leisure travel. Plus, America has a ton of baby boomers retiring everyday. They travel more once they retire.

Technically shares of MAR have been consolidating sideways below resistance in the $78-80 zone the last several weeks. I am suggesting we wait for MAR to close above $80.25 and then buy calls the next day with a stop at $74.90.

Breakout trigger: Wait for a close above $80.25
Then buy calls the next day with a stop at $74.90

BUY the 2016 Jan. $90 call (MAR160115c90)

Option Format: symbol-year-month-day-call-strike

Originally listed on the Watch List: 01/04/15